ENI’s chief executive Paolo Scaroni said he is “certain” the company will return to doing business in Iraq as soon as it is safe to do so, because it represents such an “opportunity”.

“What we know for sure is that Iraq produces 1.5 million barrels a day and it could be producing 5 million (a day),” he said yesterday.

“I am certain we will return to Iraq, but only with the necessary safety for our work force and above all in the north, where conditions seem to have improved the most.”

Eni’s is one of 35 international oil companies qualified to bid for future hydrocarbon contracts to Iraq’s oil fields. Later today, Scaroni will discuss possible Eni investment in Iraq with the country’s Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, who is currently attending the International Energy Forum in Rome.